MAR 28, 2018 5:30 PM PDT

The Travelling Antimatter

Antimatter's journey between the ELENA and ISOLDE facilities. Credit: CERN

Sending a laboratory sample for testing could be easy: place the material in an appropriate container, close and seal the container, call in the express shipping company and to have the package delivered in no time.

But the transportation of antimatter is no ordinary delivery task. To transfer a sample of antiprotons from one facility to a nearby testing site, scientists at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) need to tackle multiple technological and logistic challenges.

In physics, antimatter is composed of the antiparticles, the counterpart of the corresponding particles of ordinary matter. A particle and its antiparticle would share the same mass but have opposite electric charge, as well as some other differences in quantum numbers. The antimatter that is known to physicists include antiprotons, positrons, antineutrons, as well as antiatoms like antihydrogen and antihelium.

When a particle comes in close contact with its anti-particle, they mutually annihilate, releasing intense gamma rays, neutrinos, and sometimes less-massive particle–antiparticle pairs as a result.

Using antiproton decelerators like the one in the ELENA (Extra Low ENergy Antiproton) facility, physicists can tame the highly energetic antiprotons and turn them into a low energy beam that can be used to synthesize antiatoms. On the other hand, The Isotope mass Separator On-Line facility, or ISOLDE, allow scientists to study a vast territory of atomic nuclei, including the most exotic species such as antiprotons.

In the project PUMA, (antiProton Unstable Matter Annihilation), a team of scientists led by Alexandre Obertelli, a physicist from the Darmstadt technical university, devised a method to make antiprotons transportable. Obertelli started the project with a goal to explore new quantum phenomena that is likely to be observed when antiprotons and slow exotic nuclei make contact in a low-energy condition. For this to be done, scientists need to trap antimatter and transport it to a facility that delivers radioactive ion beams. They need to trap the antiprotons with a 70-cm-long “double-zone” trap inside a one-tonne superconducting solenoid magnet. The trap is kept under an extremely high vacuum (10-17 mbar) and at cryogenic temperature (4K).

“Today, CERN is the only place in the world where low-energy antiprotons are produced, but “this project might lead to the democratization of the use of antimatter,” says Obertelli.

What is Antimatter? Credit: Fermi Lab

Source: CERN

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
OCT 17, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 17, 2019
A Natural, Eco-friendly Pesticide Synthesized for the First Time
A group of organic chemists at California Institute of Technology has come up with a synthesis method to produce a naturally existing pesticide named &mdas...
NOV 13, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 13, 2019
Will Thorium Reactors Have a Future in Clean Energy?
In its pure form, thorium is a silver-black colored metal. Named after Thor, the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder, it is the 90th element on the period...
DEC 01, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 01, 2019
Jupiter's Great Red Spot May Not Be Dying After All
Most people recognize Jupiter as the largest known planet in our solar system, but there’s another eccentric quality about the planet that helps it s...
DEC 12, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 12, 2019
Self-learning, Light-responsive Robot Inspired by Pavlov's Dog
Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov famously trained the canines in his experiments to salivate in response to the sound of a metronome, which was a showcase...
DEC 24, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 24, 2019
Santa's not the Only One that's Making Haste - the Magnetic North Pole's Wandering Accelerates
According to the latest World Magnetic Model (WMM) released by the  NOAA's National Centres for Environmental Information (NCEI), the  Earth&...
FEB 25, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
FEB 25, 2020
The Art of Kinetics
The conservation of energy is a universal rule in our universe.  This principle of nature dictates that in an isolated system, the total amount of ene...
Loading Comments...